Thumbs Up: Much better put together than Chrysler convertibles past.
Thumbs Down: Interior is on the bland side, not much fun to drive.
Buy This Car If: You want an affordable, four-passenger convertible.
Chrysler has not always been known for assembling solidly-built four-seat convertibles. Back in the LeBaron convertible days, we literally had rental cars shed interior pieces as we drove. The Sebring convertible was a step in the right direction, since it had less cowl shake than the LeBaron and stayed screwed together throughout every rental car experience we had behind the wheel, though we never really warmed up to its sub-standard ride or interior.
Fortunately, the Sebring-derived Chrysler 200 convertible is a much better car than the models that preceded it. It delivers a smooth and composed ride over all surfaces, is impressively squeak and rattle-free, seats four adults in reasonable comfort, looks good with the top down and delivers solid value for the money. If that’s where your pre-purchase checklist ends, the Chrysler 200 Convertible won’t disappoint, and we’re happy to say it will likely deliver years of trouble-free service.
In terms of exterior styling, only the front and rear of the Chrysler 200 are noticeably different than its immediate predecessor, the final generation of Chrysler Sebring. Blame that on priorities, as Chrysler has spent the bulk of its refresh dollars on new versions of its minivans, as well as updates for the full size Chrysler 300. What was left over went primarily into making the 200 a better car underneath the skin, so we’d call that money well spent.
Major improvements over the Sebring include the addition of Chrysler’s superb 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 to the lineup, stiffer body mounts, a completely revised suspension (to deliver a softer ride), higher quality interior materials, thicker seat padding and further reductions in noise, vibration and harshness. It may look similar to the Sebring from the outside (especially in profile), but from behind the wheel it’s a whole different animal.
While we’d stop short of calling the 200 a beautiful design, it is handsome and likely to age well. Its styling won’t necessarily attract buyers (at least not in the way its functionality and value will), but it won’t send them away, either. Like most convertible designs, the cloth top takes away from the lines of the car when its in place, so the soft-top Chrysler 200 looks noticeably better with the top stowed.
Inside, the 200 aims for a more upscale feel than the Sebring, and mostly hits its target. Gone is the Sebring’s hideous fake wood and hard plastic, replaced by soft touch vinyl, piano black and tasteful chrome or metallic accents. Even the small details are covered here, like the restyled analog clock that now links the 200 to its larger, more successful brother, the 300 sedan. The three-pod instrument cluster even tries to step up its game, but somehow winds up looking dated. Throw in the vast expanse of monochrome plastic across the doors and dash lower, and the 200 falls just short of earning top marks for its interior restyle. If the Sebring earned a D for its interior, at least the 200 is up to a C+, and that’s clearly measurable progress.
Front seats, while a step up from the previous model, still need a bit of improvement. The bottom cushion is too soft, which actually makes the seats less comfortable for longer distance driving than firmer cushions. Side bolstering is minimal, which discourages spirited driving (which, to be honest, isn’t the 200’s forte) and the leather panels seem to be a different shade than their vinyl surrounds. On the plus side (literally and figuratively), the 200’s front seats are wide enough to accommodate drivers and passengers of all shapes and sizes.
The 2+2 rear seats offer reasonable accommodations for two adults, as long as they’re not overly long-of-inseam. Entry and exit requires some gymnastics with the top in place, and those much taller than six feet aren’t going to be comfortable for long in inclement weather. With the top down and the sun shining, however, few passengers will complain about the second-row seating. In fact, the Chrysler 200 is about as good as it gets for hauling four adults al fresco in reasonable comfort, at a reasonable price point.
Another bright spot is Chrysler’s superb 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, which just picked up its third “10 Best Engines” award from Ward’s. An available option in Touring and Limited trim cars (like our Chrysler-supplied tester), the V-6 comes standard in S model convertibles. Rated at 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque and mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission, the run from 0-60 mph takes around 7.5 seconds. No, that’s not sports car territory, but the Chrysler 200 Convertible’s strength isn’t in the quarter-mile or on the autocross track. The Pentastar V-6 is remarkably smooth, which makes it well-suited for use in a convertible meant more for cruising to the beach than strafing apexes in a canyon. Another plus is fuel economy; even with the V-6, the 200 Convertible delivers 29 mpg highway, 19 mpg city and 22 mpg combined.
On the road, the 200 Convertible serves up a comfortable ride and predictable handling that is well-suited to the car’s target demographic. We’d have liked a bit more steering feel, but it is reasonably well weighted given the car’s comfort-focused mission. Braking is also quite decent, and we think most drivers will find that the 200 Convertible’s on-road manners exceed their expectations. That said, the 200 doesn’t produce much joy behind the wheel, so if you’re passionate about driving, this isn’t a car that will prove satisfying for very long. On the other hand, if driving is nothing more than a chore to you, we suspect the 200 Convertible will put a smile on your face, especially in sunny weather.
Chrysler supplied the 200 Limited Convertible for the purpose of this evaluation. Base price was $33,090, including a destination charge of $995, and options included the $475 Boston Acoustics speakers and the $695 UConnect navigation and infotainment system for a total sticker price of $34,260.
For comparison, a similarly-equipped Chevy Camaro 2LT Convertible would price at $37,315, while a comparable Ford Mustang V6 Premium would sticker for $37,760.